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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hand-Dyeing Wool Yarn with Procion Dye

Did you ever fall in love with a colorful yarn, but it was out of stock, or see something that was almost perfect and wish you could make your own special color mix? Well, I decided to try it for myself. 

I had a bunch of procion dye already in-house, from tie-dyeing and Shibori dyeing last summer. I loved the colors and wanted to use what I already had! But the tie-dyeing method I'm used to uses soda ash as a fixer and activator for the dye. Soda ash can break down and even disintegrate wool fibers, so I had to use something else. It turns out, white vinegar can be substituted as a fixer when dyeing wool. With vinegar, procion dyes act like acid dyes; pretty cool!

The yarn I chose is Cloudborn Superwash, which is Craftsy's own brand. It's soft, squishy, and does not break off. I'm knitting with it now, and I've handled it a lot and I like it so far!  For this project, I got both DK and Bulky weights, to go with two sweater patterns that I'm going to use. 

Here's what I did:

* Keep the yarn tied up in skeins! If you cut the threads that hold them together, the yarn will get all tangled up. Swish gently and try to keep the skeins neatly in tact. You'll be glad later, when you're ready to wind the yarn into balls!

* I recommend wearing gloves, to avoid dyeing your hands. 

1. First, I soaked the yarn in warm water with about 1 tsp of Synthrapol added. After about 30 minutes, I squeezed out the excess water. 

2. Then I soaked it in an acid solution: equal parts water and white vinegar, plus 1 tsp of Synthrapol. After about 15 minutes, I squeezed out the excess water. 

3. During the soaking times for steps 1 and 2, I mixed up my dyes in little squeeze bottles. I put 1 tsp of salt in each bottle, then added 1 tsp of dye powder (I used a plastic spoon that I keep with my dye equipment - please don't use anything that you will use for food later!). Then I filled up the bottles with warm water, put on the lids, and gave them a shake. I refilled them a few times during the dyeing process. 

4. I put the yarn into plastic tubs and squirted on the dye, working on two skeins at a time, moving the yarn around. If you don't shift them around, the centers of the skeins will stay un-dyed. 

5. After applying the desired dye, I kept the skeins in the tubs and covered them with plastic wrap. The yarn and dye should stay wet for 24 hours or longer, so cover it somehow.

6. After 24 hours, I rinsed the first batch. I filled the plastic tub with warm water and Synthrapol, letting the yarn soak for a couple hours, swishing and draining the water periodically. When the new water stayed clear, I knew the rinsing was done. 

7. For the final rinse, I added 1 cup of vinegar to the water and swished the yarn around for a few minutes. Then I squeezed out the excess water and draped the skeins over my laundry rack to let them dry completely. (I dried them inside, in the bathtub - it's better to keep them out of the sun so the colors will last longer).

I waited another 24 hours to rinse the second batch of yarn, just because I didn't have time to do both batches at once. It is fine to leave the dye on the yarn for longer than 24 hours and rinse it at your convenience. 

Here's how my yarn turned out:

For the orange batch, I used the colors Orange Crush, Watermelon, Clear Yellow, and New Emerald Green.

To dye the blue batch, I used Turquoise, Clear Yellow, Sky Blue, Forest Green, and Blue Gray.

The orange DK yarn will become a Martine sweater, designed by Julie Hoover. 

And the blue bulky yarn will become an Il Grande Favorito sweater, designed by Isabell Kraemer.  

Have you dyed your own yarn? What process did you use? How did it go?  

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